If you know you like a stiffer ski for moguls, you’ll love this. But the 184cm X-Drive 8.8 FS definitely isn’t the easiest mogul ski out there. There are lighter, quicker skis, and I would give the 184cm Volkl Kendo (or any number of other skis) the nod here over the 184cm X-Drive 8.8 if ease-in-moguls is a priority for you.
184cm Salomon X-Drive 8.8 FS vs. 184cm Volkl Kendo vs. the 13/14 184cm Mantra
The 184cm Volkl Kendo is a very good 88mm ski that is terrific on groomers and in moguls, but I felt that it lacked stability when being pushed hard on runs like Taos’ Reforma, and I wasn’t tempted to try to go ski hard on it in the steeps of Taos’ West Basin. But the flex pattern of the Kendo isn’t that different from that of the 13/14 Mantra, a ski that I love in West Basin. The similar but wider Mantra provides a much more stable platform.
So in thinking about the 88mm Kendo vs. the 98mm Mantra, I’d pick the Kendo if we were going to go ski exclusively groomers and bump runs all day. But if we were going to ski steep, bumped-up terrain in variable conditions, I’d take the wider Mantra over the Kendo every single time. But I could see opting for the X-Drive 8.8 over the Mantra in the same terrain, especially the steeper and more bulletproof the conditions.
In short, if you ever wished the 13/14 Mantra came in a narrower package, it now does. (Or if you ever wished the Kendo was just a bit more substantial, the X-Drive 8.8 probably ought to be your next ski.)
Salomon X-Drive 8.8 vs. Rossignol Experience 88 (and Experience 98 and Experience 100)
Rossignol has tweaked the Experience 88 for the 14/15 season, and has allegedly made it a bit more substantial. We haven’t skied the new E88 yet, but I personally was psyched to hear about the changes to it. In short, I was a big fan of the Rossi Experience 98 and was hoping that the E88 would basically just feel like a narrower version of the E98. But it didn’t. Neither the 13/14 nor the 14/15 E88 has metal, and it didn’t have nearly as much backbone as the E98. The result is that, if you loved the E98, you probably didn’t love the E88. Conversely, if you really like the E88, I can’t imagine that you’d love the Rossi E98—or the X-Drive 8.8 FS.
The X-Drive 8.8 is way more ski than the 13/14 Rossi E88, and is much closer in terms of stiffness and its top end to the Experience 98. The fat tail of the Experience 98 or the new Experience 100 might make either the better choice for carving on ice, but the tail shape of the X-Drive 8.8 is easier to release.
I’ve really liked the 184 length, but this ski is so stable, if you are on the fence about size, I think you could safely size down and you’ll still have a very stable ski. (In fact, a couple of the guys at Salomon who are very accomplished skiers and who also weigh more than me are skiing the 179, and find it to be plenty of ski.)
Still, I haven’t yet been in a situation where the 184 felt too long or like too much ski, and I wouldn’t want to give up any length / effective edge because I still want to ski this ski hard in bad conditions down Reforma and the steeps of West Basin.
But if you’re going to be using these less as an all-mountain ski and more as a frontside groomers & bumps ski, then I think you could safely drop down in size, and I am very confident that I could have a really good time on groomers and in bumps on the 179s.
Anything I’d Change about This Ski?
Really, only one thing: the graphics. I made a similar argument in my review of the 13/14 Mantra, but since graphics definitely do influence who will purchase a given ski, I wish the X-Drive 8.8 looked a bit less like a dedicated frontside ski, and a bit more like a true all-mountain ski (e.g., like Salomon’s own great-looking Q Lab). Because by now it should be exceedingly clear that I don’t think this ski is merely some mellow frontside option for instructors or folks who just want something easy and fun.
But ultimately I don’t care, so long as enough people get on this ski to appreciate it, and ensure that skis like this keep getting made.
Who’s the 184cm X-Drive 8.8 For?
1) Advanced and expert directional skiers who spend most of their time on-piste skiing hard and fast, and want a ski that will hold up to ridiculously high speeds or roughed-up groomers.
2) Advanced and expert skiers who want a sub-90mm ski to go anywhere and everywhere on the mountain, but who also want a ski that will eat up groomers.
3) Big skiers (190 lbs., 250 lbs., or more) who aren’t necessarily looking to charge hard all the time, but who still want a stable ski. (And again, shorter lengths of the X-Drive 8.8 might work quite well for this.)
4) One Ski Quiver: Skiers who live in lower-snow environments looking for a single ski, and care a lot more about how well their ski handles firm conditions and nasty conditions than forgiving, soft conditions.
5) Two Ski Quiver: Skiers who already have a ski around ~105-110mm that they love to break out in great conditions, so going with a 98mm-underfoot ski would create a bit too much overlap. Here, the X-Drive 8.8 could be a phenomenal option.
Bottom Line (For Now)
Advanced and expert skiers looking for a “real” ski who don’t care about see-through tips, or funky shapes, or weird flex patterns, please check out the Salomon X-Drive 8.8 FS, because I want skis like this to continue to exist.
The X-Drive 8.8 FS is relatively narrow, damp, stable, powerful, truly all-mountain ski with a big sweet spot and a high speed limit. The sort of ski that makes demanding terrain or conditions fun.
From a design point of view, I’d be willing to call the X Drive 8.8 perfect. Every single thing about it feels coherent and cohesive.
Very well done, Salomon.
I heaped a lot of praise on this ski at the end of last season, so much so that it’s made me a little bit nervous to jump back on it at the beginning of this season. Would I still stand by everything I wrote six months ago?
Did I overstate things?
I’ve put another seven days on the 184cm X-Drive 8.8, and the answer to that last question is, No.
With seven more days on it, and having now skied other ~88mm skis (the Dynastar Powertrack 89, the Blizzard Brahma, etc.) I still stand by—with even more conviction—the claims I made back in June.
This ski is legit. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, of course, but it is a damn fine cup of tea.
A couple of points that I would like to underscore:
1) I will say it again, and louder: for anyone who is disappointed that the 13/14 Volkl Mantra has been changed, you really, really ought to check out the X-Drive 8.8.
2) While this is a substantial ski, it is a ski that can be finessed and will behave well with proper input. So while it’s exciting to me just how hard you can push this ski, it is not the case that the 184cm 8.8 has to be skied with aggression. I’ve forced myself to slow things down a bit on several runs, and while this ski doesn’t somehow transform itself into a mellow slalom ski (it’s too stiff for that), it is totally predictable, manageable, and smooth making shorter, scrubbed turns on groomers. So you don’t have to access this ski’s top end to enjoy it, but honestly, if you don’t plan to use that top end, there might be other skis out there that would make more sense. (Which is the same thing I said about the 13/14 Mantra.)
3) While this goes for everything I said above, I’ll note in particular that everything I wrote in the “Who’s It For?” section above, I believe all over again and more deeply now.
Ok, now for the fun part:
Accidental Deep Pow Testing of the X-Drive 8.8 FS at Taos
I woke up yesterday, looked out the window, and was excited to see that it looked like Taos had picked up 6″ or so. Normally, with 6″ or more of new snow, I wouldn’t be skiing on something that was sub-90mm underfoot, but since I was planning to post this update, I figured I ought to say something about its performance in fresh snow.
What I found was that I really liked this ski in tracked up pow and big, pushed-around piles of soft chop. The ski was never twitchy, and while I had fun popping off of all the fresh, soft moguls that were forming on the frontside groomers, the ski was also quite willing to just blow up and blow through those soft piles of snow without deflection.
And then, in the afternoon, the backside of the mountain opened for the first time of the season … and the snow was deep. Really, really deep.
As someone who believes firmly in having a quiver of multiple skis, it felt pretty scandalous to be on a 88mm-wide ski in knee-to-waist deep snow. There is a reason why much wider skis exist, and why they can be so much fun. Right tool for the job, etc., etc.
But I have to say, I still had a good time on the X-Drive 8.8s. The BIG caveat here is that the snow was pretty light and dry. If it hadn’t been, I would probably not be able to tell this same story about the 8.8’s performance in deep pow.
But while the X-Drive 8.8 didn’t plane up like some lighter, less subtly tip-rockered skis would, it felt substantial enough to knife beneath the fresh snow without the shovels folding up like crazy and pitching me, repeatedly, over the handlebars.
I also wasn’t over-turning or jump turning—just taking a fall-line approach, keeping speed up as much as possible, and porpoising the skis in flatter terrain.
And then, when we’d get back to the sections of deep chop / tracked pow, I’d treat each big pile of snow like a pillow line, popping from one soft pocket to the next. Fun.
My point here isn’t to sell you on the X-Drive 8.8 as a lovely pow ski. My only point is to say that, I have some proof that if you rarely encounter deeper conditions like this, you can make this ski work and have a fun day. (Though I think if you’re concerned about the powder performance of your sub-88mm ski, the Dynastar Powertrack 89 is likely the better option, with softer shovels, deeper rocker lines, and more tip splay).
And then, 1 or 2 days after a big storm—and even if you never see any new snow for the rest of the season—you might feel like you are on precisely the right ski for the conditions.
Once again, kudos, Salomon.
(P.S. Tomorrow, we’ll start putting time on the X-Drive 8.8’s skinnier sibling, the X-Drive 8.0. It ought to make for some fun comparisons.)
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